A man once gave up three steps from where a treasure worths of millions of dollars lay.
His name was Mr Darby.
During the gold rush, he was literally three steps away from one of the largest goldmines when he decided to quit.
He sold his machines to a junk man for a few hundred dollars, who in return took millions of dollars from the mine just by hiring an engineer and making some calculations.
Think about it. Three steps. Sometimes that’s all that separates us from our desire. And it looks like the best option is to just quit.
Long after his failure, Mr Darby went into business by selling life insurance and made millions. He learned from the experience and succeeded by simply telling himself: “I stopped three feet from gold, but I will never stop because men say no when I ask them to buy insurance.” (Think and grow rich, Napoleon Hill).
What separated Mr Darby from those millions in a gold mine and those he made with insurance? The simple decision either to quit or to never, ever quit.
Principle #1: Implement an endless number of ideas until one succeeds
James Altucher is an American hedge fund manager and bestselling author-entrepreneur. He founded and confounded more than 20 companies. But the remarkable fact in this: 17 of them failed. 3 made him tens of millions. Could he have given up after the first failure? The second? Well, okay, maybe the tenth or the fifteenth? No, he never gave up until he found his gold mine those three ideas.
Here’s an interesting habit James recommends: a habit of writing down 10 ideas every morning in a writer’s pad or a notebook. This is an exercise to develop an „idea muscle“ and this way, have creativity on demand. The topics of your ideas don’t matter. Write down story ideas, book or blog article ideas, ideas for courses, programs, productivity and lifestyle changes, or simply ideas that will change the world.
Here’s a hack:
If you can’t come up with 10 good ideas, think of 20 ideas. How? Just drop your standards and go nuts. Try things out. Don’t pressure yourself to have good ideas, but let creativity flow. Like with James’ companies, many will fail, but several of them will be gold mines.
Principle #2: Set systems with transferable skills
Scott Adams is a bestselling author and creator of the Dilbert comic strip that was published in more than 2000 newspapers in 57 countries and translated in multiple languages.
„Losers have goals, winners have systems“
What is a system, and how is it different from a simple goal? A specific goal might fail. But if you have a system, you will benefit from it, even if the ultimate goal is a failure.
Let me explain. I might have the goal to shoot a successful feature film. But this goal is out of my control because success is something that I am unable to attain through a step-by-step system. A good portion of luck and zeitgeist is involved here. But my system might be to shoot a feature film in one take in a night in Berlin (which was amazingly done by Sebastian Schipper with “Victoria (2015)”). If I call pull off this – no matter the success – I will learn from this experience for a lifetime and also make friends and colleagues that I might work with for the rest of my life.
So if you set out to do projects or implement habits, choose those that give you transferable skills or relationships even if they result in failures. Choose options that will allow you to inevitably succeed over time because they build assets you can carry into other projects and grow with them. Nothing you set out to do will ever be a failure.
Principle #3: Good, …
Jocko Willings is a retired navy seal commander, and he has one simple way of dealing with setbacks and failures.
When things are going bad, he refuses to get bumped out or frustrated. He just looks at the issue and says: „Good, then …“.
This one is not about ignoring reality. Not at all. It does not encourage to put on the rose-coloured glasses and see a world with butterflies and rainbows. Far from it. Remember, Jocko used to be a navy seal. The “Good” Word means – not ignoring reality but accepting it and focusing on a solution. Instead of going back and sinking into regrets, turn it into something good.
Go forward. Move on. Just say: “Good, …”
Principle #4: Kill your darlings
Scott Belsky is an entrepreneur, author and investor. He co-founded Behance in 2006 and was the CEO there when Adobe bought for many years. He also is an early advisor and investor into Uber, Pinterest and Periscope among other startups. It’s safe to say that Scott has a knack for success.
Early on, he adopted the principle of killing your darlings, as writers put it.
In the early days of Behance, he made the mistake of doing too many things — multiple products, multiple business lines. The business and thus the energy was divided into too many things. 5 years later, they were losing their company and had to decide what to keep and what to cut in order to opt for success.
This is often the case with creatives. We are doing too many things because we are easily infected with enthusiasm and fired up by passions for many ideas related to our fields of interest. But this can kill your success. This can be the reason why you still fail – because you are unable to focus.
Scott warns: When you decide to throw things aboard, you will inevitably disappoint many people. This might not even be all about business. Maybe you try to juggle several careers at once or need to pay off a mortgage. Maybe you know that you need to quit your day job – which is a very tough decision and might not be applauded by everyone. We often take on too much than we can handle, and the result is – failure.
But by focusing, you will reach millions of others who will benefit, like Behance did by focusing on Creatives and thus empowered millions and finally reached the success it is now. Sometimes you even have to stop doing things you love – literally kill your darlings – in order to nurture the things that matter most.
Principle #5: „Be yourself, everyone else is taken.“ Oscar Wilde
But what exactly to focus on? What is the one thing you should pursue and what should you abandon?
Peter Diamandis was named one of the Worlds 50 greatest leaders by Fortune magazine, and he emphasized the importance of finding your driving purpose.
Ask yourself these questions:
What did you want to do when you were a child? Before anybody told you what you are supposed to do? What did you want to do more than anything else?
Someone said to me once, that ageing is not measured by a grey beard or white hair. Ageing happens the moment you stop dreaming. The moment you settle into the comfortable and stable life. When we were children, we used to dream a lot. There was no stopping us. But the moment you stop dreaming is the moment your soul grows old.
Also: If you had 1 billion to spend to improve the world or solve a problem, what would you do? Money is often the concern when it comes to setting priorities. But money will never bring happiness in the long term. So if money were no issue at all, what would you do? THIS is how you find your driving purpose.
Oscar Wilde said: „Be yourself, everyone else is taken.“
We often try to imitate others or do what we were told would be best for us. But the beautiful thing about creativity is: There are no rivals. Your creativity is unique in your own way, and there will be people out there who will need exactly your uniqueness.
So what is the sure way to never succeed as an artist?
To quit. If you ever give up, if you ever start believing the lie and stop growing, stop improving your skills and your methods, you will fail.
Think about Mr Darby again. He believed the lie that there was probably no gold around. He stopped looking for solutions, he refused to grow and learn by hiring an engineer and finding new ways to reach what he set out to do in the first place. And he failed three steps away from the gold mine.
Don’t repeat Darby’s mistake. Instead, learn from those 5 principles of successful artists and entrepreneurs when it comes to dealing with failure, and you will surely never fail. Look for new ideas and solutions, refocus again and again on your driving purpose, and remember: Your gold mine might be only three steps away.
I hope you loved this as much as I did when I discovered these stories and principles. Don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter or the feed to never miss and episode, and support me on Patreon with a coffee a month if you enjoyed the show for several great perks like free novels, mentions and even courses.
Have a great week and create something amazing!